We spend so much of our lives at work that the last thing any of us really wants to have is any negative associations with the workplace. However, a recent study found that 70% of people admit to lacking confidence in their career and speaking up at work. Confidence at work tends to be something that women struggle with more than men – in the same study, 62% of men had confidence issues compared to 79% of women. Now, I don’t know whether statistics hold much sway for you but you can always look at your own experience in the workplace. And, if you’ve decided to click through to this article, I’m guessing that there is something lacking on the confidence front for you right now.

Low confidence at work? It’s not your fault..

One of the first things that most of us do in a situation where we – or someone else – has identified that confidence is an issue is to find fault in ourselves. Maybe you start criticising or shaming yourself because you “should be more confident at this point in life.” Or perhaps comparison is your weapon of choice and you start looking at other people you think are confident at work and wishing you could be more like them. This is a pointles exercise – and it can be a painful and self-sabotaging one. So, wherever you are with your confidence right now let’s park any feelings of inadequacy or shame. Resilience coaching is all about looking at where you are now – and, crucially, what you need to do to move past something like low confidence. It’s about practical steps for positive change so that’s where we’ll begin.

Common causes of low confidence at work

Confidence is a habit. So, if you feel like you don’t have much confidence at work the way forward is going to be about changing your perspectives and daily behaviours. But it’s also useful to look at where this might have started (or what is perpetuating it). Here are some common causes:

  • Imposter syndrome. That old voice in your head that tells you that you don’t deserve to be there and someone is about to realise what a fraud you are.
  • A problematic workplace. Micro-managing bosses, critical colleagues or a negative or bullying workplace culture are all going to erode your confidence.
  • Feeling disengaged from what you’re doing. That might be because you aren’t in a job that really makes the most of your talents – or because the business simply doesn’t see what you’re capable of.
  • Getting stuck in perfectionism. Being a perfectionist really sucks the joy out of life. Perfectionists don’t get everything right, they just make life that much harder by setting impossible standards and taking on unrealistic workloads so that everything is always a struggle.

If your reason isn’t on the list then drop it in the comments below.

Tips for building up confidence at work

The wonderful thing about confidence being a habit, not a personality trait, is that feeling more confident at work is something we can all experience. These are my tips for how to begin doing it.

  • Start with how you feel about you. The root of confidence is the latin ‘fidere,’ which means to trust – this is all grounded in the trust that you have in yourself. Confidence isn’t about suddenly trying to be the loudest person in the room, or the most constant contributor. It’s about identifying the steps you need to take to improve confidence in a way that is comfortable. And by comfortable I mean uncomfortable (because growth always is) but not paralysingly so. For example, if you want to speak up in meetings maybe it would help to ensure you’re always early and have time to sit and get a coffee, do some quiet calming breathing or engage with others in the team. You could start speaking up more in smaller groups and work your way up to all-company meetings. There are lots of ways to start building the trust with yourself that will provide a firm foundation for confidence.
  • Remember that this is a habit – it takes practice. It’s vital to repeat this because otherwise the first time you try something new on the confidence front you’re probably going to give up if it doesn’t feel good or doesn’t work out. You’ll need to practice – and you’ll need to be intentional about practicing and dealing with the fears that will come up each time you take new steps.
  • Self-compassion is the key. Self-compassion is kind of a super power if you’re trying to build confidence at work. It’s funny because in many of the work environments we describe as ‘high-powered’ that would probably get laughed out of the room. However, it’s self-compassion that transforms you from someone who is brittle in their tension, close-minded and desperately trying to be seen or win people over, into that person who is calmly able to do what they feel is necessary. If your inner voice is kind, doesn’t punish failure, tells you that you can try again and helps you filter out the judgments of others you are already onto a winner where confidence is concerned. Self-compassion is a big part of the flexibility of resilience and the fuel for confidence too.
  • Learn some emotional agility. There is nothing worse than overwhelming emotion for eroding your confidence at work. Losing your temper can make you fear the consequences, resentment can ruin your day and feeling hurt can make it impossible to speak up when you need to. Emotional agility is the process of learning how to let your emotions happen – and then release them – rather than being consumed by them. One simple way to start doing this is to listen to the language you use with emotions and then begin to change it. For example, swap out “I am sad” for “I feel sad.” This kind of language recognises that the emotion is temporary and that it’s something that’s happening to you in this moment, it’s not who you are.

I know a lot of people who think they can separate out who they are at work from who they really are, as if the fears, anxieties, beliefs and perspectives of our actual selves can be filtered out for a work environment. The reality is that the authentic us always seeps through into our work personas – so the real you is where you need to go to start changing the experience you have at work every day. Including when it comes to creating a more confident you.

Confidence building is a big part of resilience coaching – it tends to be in every goal for every client I work with and this is the ideal process to start improving trust with yourself. If you would like to explore how 1:1 resilience coaching could support you in building more confidence at work then book a free intro call.

This is also part of the Resilience at Work course that I offer, which is designed to help you show up wherever your workplace is with authenticity and confidence. Find out more.

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